Music Business Underground is a monthly column attempting to put the business of being a musician in real, attainable, and actionable terms for the non-established musician.  Upcoming topics include songwriting, booking, live performance, show promotion, tour booking, recording, licensing, distribution, design, publicity, manufacturing, and more.  



It’s difficult to promote music that does not yet exist, so it seems that the logical place to start is with getting your project put together.  Whether you perform folk, rock, hip hop, jazz, or metal, you need to know what you plan to bring to the table and have a general idea of where you want to go.

A folk singer or singer/songwriter might find it easiest to get going as the singer is most likely playing an instrument, singing, and writing songs.  If you want to start a rock band and you play drums (Good for you! Drummers are always in high demand!), then you would seek out your friends who like rock music and play guitar, play bass, and/or sing. If you rap, you would want to seek out a friend who produces beats that you can perform over.

Maybe you say, “Hey, I do not have all of these talented friends, but I still want to make stuff.”  This is where being a part of a local music scene can come in very handy.

Search online for local venues that you have heard about or search Facebook for a local “shows” or “musicians” group to find events.


Pizza Works | Peoria
Black Sheep | Springfield
The Castle Theatre | Bloomington
The Accord | Champaign
The Bistro | Bloomington
Mike N Molly’s | Champaign
Rail II | Peoria
Limelight Eventplex | Peoria

Go to live music performances and make friends with the audience, the staff, and the performers.  Especially if you are going to see music performed that is similar to what you would like to make, you are likely to find others who feel the same.


Again for a rapper, even if you cannot find a beat-maker to collaborate with, there are resources online where you can download instrumental versions of others’ songs or purchase beats from producers.  Google, Facebook, SoundcloudYouTube, and RapRadar are great places to start looking.

While I would not recommend performing professionally to beats purchased online, it could be an important step in developing your craft while you seek out the right collaborator.

If you are interested in starting a ska band, I would highly recommend hanging out with the school/city marching, orchestral, and jazz bands.  It is not often that horn players get the opportunity to dance around on the stage of a rock club, and you might be surprised at those who would be interested.


Okay, so now you have a group of friends together who on paper could be a band.  Let us say two guitars, bass, drums, and a singer.  You all need gear.

That is, your instruments and some form of amplification so that the instruments can all be heard at equal volume.  If you do not have gear that meets these specifications, head out to a few of your local music stores, check Facebook groups, and check Craigslist.


The Rock Shop | Springfield
McCallister Audio | Urbana
Don’s Music Land | Peoria
The Music Shoppe | Normal
Capital City Music | Springfield
Flores Music | Pekin & Peoria
The Upper Bout | Champaign
Schertz’s MusiCenter | Normal
Guitar Center | Champaign & Peoria


Another important question is, “Where will you rehearse?”  If it is a low-volume project such as folk, bluegrass, or unamplified hip hop, you might be fine with a band member’s living room.  If it is on the quieter side of rock music and you have understanding roommates, you could try practicing in the basement or another central and largely soundproofed room of the house. It is recommended in this situation that you send someone out to listen around the house during practice to ensure that sound is sufficiently muted.

If you play loud music like metal or hardcore, it might be worth renting a practice space.  In Peoria, there is a warehouse space called the Bat Cave that many bands share with no need to worry about noise complaints.  Springfield’s Black Sheep Cafe and South Town Studio host many band rehearsals.

This is another issue where it really helps to be a part of your local scene, find out where other bands are practicing, and then try to share spaces.

Right on!  So, you have people who could technically be a band in one space with proper gear.  Now make a bunch of awful noise repeatedly for long periods of time.  Each time, refine that sound until you eventually wind up with what someone could call music.  Depending on who you are and your situation, this part of the process can easily take years.  It certainly did for me.


And, one last final note before signing off.  Select a moniker or band name.  Brain storm and make a long list of possible names that you enjoy.  After making a long list, eliminate names that any of your collaborators dislike.  Look at the remaining list and consider what each name feels like and if it seems to match the sound of the music that you are creating and the scene that you aim to be within. You do not want to be that band that is constantly explaining your joke band name, unless you are a joke band.

Pick your favorites and take the time to search them on Google, Facebook  Bandcamp, Soundcloud, iTunes, and YouTube.  You do not want to be confused with an already existing musical act and they do not want to be confused with you.  After making music for years, most musicians have at least one story of being confronted by a similarly named act.

If you are planning on signing to a label and making a living from your music, it would be helpful to go a step further and trademark your band name as your brand over at the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

There you have it. Column #1 of Music Business Underground for Prairie Entrepreneurship Notes (PEN).  Please tune in next month for #2.  My hope is that through this column PEN will help foster more creativity and professionalism within the Central Illinois music community.  Until next time, take care of each other and keep practicing.